Out of the Archives: Panoramic Images of Ashokan Reservoir

This panoramic photo shows steam shovels, rail cars, and the general bustle of work as workers for the Olivebridge Dam in 1911. It also includes an inscription by the photographer, W.W. Thompson of Poughkeepsie.
This panoramic photo shows steam shovels, rail cars, and the general bustle of work as workers for the Olivebridge Dam in 1911. It also includes an inscription by the photographer, W.W. Thompson of Poughkeepsie.
This photo shows a group of men atop horses, likely taken along the dikes that were built to hold water in Ashokan. The mountains in the background appear to be peaks that are generally viewed from the reservoir’s east basin.
This image shows at least four different rail lines that were used to haul material around for construction of the dam and dikes at Ashokan. The mountains in the background appear to be Ticetonyk, Little Tonshi and Tonshi mountains — peaks that are generally seen from the east basin.

These images belong to the family of DEP employee Mark DuBois, who works as a watershed maintainer in Shokan. Dubois’ family has deep roots in the Esopus Valley where Ashokan Reservoir was built from 1907–1915. His great-grandfather lived in Brown’s Station, a hamlet that was removed to make way for the reservoir. His grandfather, Lemuel DuBois, was a surveyor whose work informed the construction of the Catskill System, including Ashokan. The panoramic photos had belonged to him and were later passed down to Mark Dubois’ uncle, who donated them to an upstate library before his death. The photos provide wide-angle views of Ashokan’s construction that are unique among the other archived images of the project. Additionally, it’s possible they are some of the first panoramic images of their kind. The “flexible film” needed to take photos this large was not invented until the 1890s, and cameras that used the film were not widely marketed until the early 1900s. An inscription on one of the photos shows that it was taken on Aug. 18, 1911 by W.W. Thompson of Poughkeepsie, New York. Online records note Thompson in a book documenting the activities of the New York State Historical Association in 1912. At the group’s mid-winter meeting in Albany that year, the historical association approved a payment of $1 to “W.W. Thompson, Photographer.” The historical association’s journal from that year included conventional photos of the work on Olivebridge Dam and Ashokan Reservoir. Click here to see all four historical images on Flickr.

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